Trade associations sue San Francisco over sugar-sweetened beverage legislation.

  • In June 2015, the City and County of San Francisco passed legislation that requires health warnings to be placed on advertising for sugar-sweetened beverages (i.e., nonalcoholic beverages with caloric sweeteners that contain more than 25 calories per 12 oz.).  Specifically, the warning will read:  “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”  The legislation also prohibits the advertising of sugar-sweetened beverages on city property and bans city spending on such beverages.
  • On July 24, 2015, the American Beverage Association (ABA), California Retailers Association, and California State Outdoor Advertising Association sued the City and County of San Francisco, asserting that the legislation violates core First Amendment principles.  In their complaint, plaintiffs challenge two facets of the legislation, which they characterize as the “Speech Ban” and the “Warning Mandate.”  They do not challenge the ban on city spending on sugar-sweetened beverages.  Plaintiffs point out that the legislation targets only sugar-sweetened beverages, and no other sugar-containing food products.  Further, the legislation prohibits advertising on city property that would promote the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in moderation, as part of a healthy diet.  Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief and an injunction to prevent enforcement of the challenged provisions.
  • Particularly in light of FDA’s recent proposal to amend the nutrition labeling requirements related to “added sugars,” it seems that sugar is the subject of intensely renewed scrutiny by regulators and legislators alike.  The long-term efficacy of legislative and regulatory measures on Americans’ overall sugar intake remains to be seen.